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Law professor set to be new Italian PM

Italy has edged toward its first populist government as the Eurosceptic 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League said a law professor with no political experience was their candidate to become the country’s next premier.

Neither 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio nor League leader Matteo Salvini named Giuseppe Conte as their choice after closed-door meetings with President Sergio Mattarella.

But in a breach of protocol, Di Maio later identified Conte to reporters outside the Quirinale presidential palace and posted his name on the movement’s popular blog.

“Giuseppe Conte will be a political premier on a political government, indicated by two political forces that include political figures,” Di Maio wrote.

The consultations with the president could be the last ones before a government is formed, 11 weeks after an election left Italy with a hung parliament.

It is up to Mattarella to say whether he accepts Conte as premier-designate.

If the president consents, Conte would bring a list of Cabinet members for the president’s approval, and the government would face confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

The prospect of a 5-Star-League government weighed heavily on markets and on Italy’s European allies.

The cost of borrowing to fund Italy’s persistently high public debt rose on Monday to the highest levels in nine months and the Milan stock market was trading down 1.5 per cent.

France’s economics minister has already sounded an alarm that the Eurozone’s financial stability could be threatened if a populist government blows Italy’s deficit commitments.

Di Maio assured his voters that the government would find the money to pay for social programs and tax cuts both through investments and in upcoming negotiations in Brussels on the European Union’s seven-year budget cycle, but neither the markets nor European partners have been assuaged.

A 5-Star-League government would have a very thin majority of just over 50 per cent of parliamentary seats.

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